Perhaps the badasses of old just need to evolve into a new form of badass. No longer characters full of brawn and minimal brain, but badass in what they do. I think Sam Fisher is a badass in Conviction, although other people may think otherwise. I do not consider the assassins in the AC series as badasses. There just seems to be an, i dunno, intellectuality that's missing. I also consider Prophet from Crysis 3 a badass. Perhaps games that require more forethought such as those in stealth games will now determine the badass: Killing someone without anyone knowing. Of course, it's just my opinion.
I just thought up an important gaming question that will shake the foundation! Okay, maybe it won't shake it, but people will notice, kinda like when someone's chair squeaks. Is the stereotypical video game bad-ass a thing of the past?
Thinking about more, well, relatively recent releases, namely Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider, some of the issues people have had is that the main characters both act like they're Rambo as soon as there's a gun in their hands. Another complaint, pertaining to the Devil May Cry reboot, came in the form of Dante's makeover, receiving a lot of skepticism and even more angry words of vile hatred.
Perhaps what the audience craves now are deeper characters. Tomb Raider, aside from Lara Croft's apparent instinct to know how to slaughter people with a bow and gun, received high marks for making Lara Croft more relatable than her gymnastic, older self. One review even praised DmC (Devil May Cry) for its deep story and new perspective on Dante's past.
One of the biggest cries when developer-hell damned Duke Nukem Forever (oh yeah, I'm going there) came out was that Duke himself was overly obnoxious. Making crude jokes, peeing in urinals and punching aliens in the lower region were so '90's and out of place in today's culturally superior games. Read with implied sarcasm as you wish.
Maybe I'm a bit of a fish out of water here. I grew up with games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D and Mortal Kombat. All were big games with bad-ass characters doing often doing horrible things to other bad-ass characters and it was awesome! Maybe people have moved. I feel like in a lot of ways, I've moved on.
Characters like Nathan Drake, Master Chief and Commander Shepherd have taken important roles in this current gen of gaming. All of them seem competent, skilled with a gun and mildly bad-ass. Each also has a detrimental flaw that plays a larger part in their tales: they are mortal. This adds layers to things games like Duke Nukem 3D and Doom didn't really touch on (though you can die a lot in Doom). Time is of the essence and the best offense is a good defense. Each character has their strengths and weaknesses, making them more flawed super heroes. Also, Commander Shepherd seems to get more action than Duke ever did (Hay-ooo!).
There are still games that bring the more flat bad ass to the forefront, like the characters of Borderlands. These games are typically parodies (read: tributes) to these games of ol' or they're just not well received.
I think it's our change in culture. There are more people than ever that want to see the medium grow and become better recognized and respected. It's hard to do that when demonstrably shallow characters like Duke are at the forefront. Also, our tastes have changed. We still want violence and sex, we just want it to contextually make sense and sometimes even be deep and meaningful (this isn't a planned blog).
In the end, I think the bad ass will live on. The heroes of ol' need a good ol' rebooting and even makeovers (cough, cough, Dante). Gaming is all about having fun and forgetting the world around you, much like reading a good book or watching a good movie. Having more believable characters who still do extraordinary things is still bad ass, it's just a new kind of bad ass.
Lol i like this topic ... U r right in gaming theory and very nice words coming out from you about it ( having fun and forgetting the world around you) .....
I would argue that the gaming landscape is more laden with bad-ass characters than it has ever been. You mentioned Nathan Drake and the latest iteration of Lara Croft--I think by any standards both of those characters would be considered bad-ass. Same goes for the likes of Master Chief and both Commander Shepards.
We even still have the strong, silent protagonists ala Doom and Wolfenstein in the form of Chell and Gordon Freeman. If you're looking for the cartoonish musculature of a Duke Nukem, I think the Halo and Gears series would fit the bill nicely.
In other words, I'm not entirely sure the grammar of your question is valid. the bad-ass is alive and well. What we *do* see more of today than we used to is character development. Certainly today's Lara Croft is a more well-rounded character, even if parts of her anatomy are significantly *less* well-rounded than they used to be. Nathan Drake has flaws, emotions, even something of an origin story. Even the muscle-pron caricatures of the Gears universe have character d
Nor would I attribute this change to a cultural shift. Gaming has been story-driven since the 90s, and a big part of this is attributable to advances in technology. CD storage and better graphics allowed developers to expand the experience to include more detailed character models, as well as voice actors, and even during the regrettable FMV era, actual actors performing actual scenes. It's easy to look at the indy market now and see deep, story-rich games with 8-bit graphics and believe that if it can be done now, it could have been done then, but the fact is these new retro-styled games are possible because the industry now knows how to tell a story regardless of the technological limitations, but this certainly wasn't always the case. In the 80s, nobody knew games were capable of being what they are today.
So I think the real reason we're seeing so many more well-developed characters today is because they're easier to create. We can render them in near-photorealistic graphics, voice them with top-shelf actors, and give them interesting dialogue in compelling stories. The talent, technology, resources, and knowhow are now more readily available than they ever were before.
the typical badass isn't dead... they're still prominent. on the other hand, there are more characters that people think they can relate to... either way, ALL get criticism to a degree and do so mostly because of what you mentioned - it's the culture. HOWEVER, i don't think you hit the point on the head regarding the culture... the point is that this is the age of *****ing... (i'm not sure if such words are able to be said here or not, but that's what it is).
people ***** and complain about virtually EVERYTHING under the sun... so it's no surprise they find an angle to take on ANY character.
if the age of the badass was gone, and more relatable characters were accepted... people would be talking about how they shouldn't have bashed raiden in MGS2... they're not. some people acknowledge that the game was actually very good and they stupidly just reacted emotionally for not getting o use snake like they wanted.... but most will still maintain the stance that Raiden was whiny and that they didn't like him.
I hope with all my hearrt that badasses never die out in gaming lol... for that is when i'll finally have to hang up my controller lol... it wouldn't surprise me if it happened one day though, considering the culture and how so many dudes themselves are simply beta types to the core, and how masculinity and badassery has been attacked... but for now, badasses still remains for the most part.
while other types too are coming forth. but keep in mind, it's not that these characters aren't badasses... they're still are... it's just that more of them make a lil more sense (and making sense =/= realisitc, necessarily btw).
These new type's of hero are hugely unrealistic, but everyone seems to buy it because they start of "normal". Firstly you don't become a master marksman over night, you are not cool under fire, you are far more likely to die in a fair stand up battle never mind 3+ vs 1.
I think its funny that people say "the character is one dimensional because he acts like a professional? That's ridiculous! if you don't act like a professional you end up dead. A normal person just doesn't have the experience and training to be comparable.
So whats a realistic bad ass? Its hard to find but someone like Captain Price in call of Duty is a good choice. Hes a professional, pretty unbreakable in combat, veteran, highly trained, not unbeatable.
On Farcry 3 - Listen to the heroes rallying speech, urgh he sounds like a stupid kid. Compared so say Admiral Hackett in Mass Effect. Hackett is a bad ass and he doesn't even kill anyone in the game!
Bad-ass heroes from the past are memorable... the Nathan Drakes and Commander Shepherds won't stand the test of time and be mostly forgotten in a decade. Film has taken the same route... we don't have modern action heroes that can compete with the Arnolds and Slys, we have stuff like Sam Worthington (yuck) and Matt Damon filling their roles instead. I think Bad-asses stem from a time when people wanted to be impressed, where as today we have people who, above anything else, want to be able to pretend they share things in common with the hero. I don't think it has anything to do with people demanding depth to their characters either, as most are still scared of anything that actually makes them think.
@MurderMode agree totally dude! I watched both total recalls the other day and the old one is leagues better than the new one. Too much attention these days is put on cgi and special effects and taken the souls out of movies.
Good blog. Its clear that one dimensional bad ass characters are not as popular as they were but i dont see them dying out completely either.
I think it is still important to have a bad ass but when I think bad ass, I don't know why, I think of a guy with over the top muscles that nothing hit him, which is a fantasy.
I really did love Dante and Vergil ( Devil May Cry ) in DMC3 ( the 3 is very important ) because of their attitude. They aren't over the top big guy with impossible muscles but just they way the move, their voices and their very flashy battle ( just think of the intro scene where they battle so fast the rain don't even touch the ground until they stop ).
Sasuke Uchiha in the Naruto Shippuden serie is also a bad ass to me. No muscles but his eyes, show so much hate and revenge especially during the Five Kage Summit ...
To me, characters like Max Payne and (pre-Conviction) Sam Fisher are two of the best characters. It makes sense that they can shoot, because Fisher was a SEAL and Max Payne was a cop. They're also slightly deeper/relatable characters without being emo. It's more realistic than a character who just suddenly knows how to shoot a gun with 100% accuracy. I'm not complaining though. Master Chief, Duke Nukem and Sub-Zero are some of my favorite characters. Sorry, but superhumans with cool armor, golden pistols, and the ability to freeze anything are cooler than emotional characters. :p
"It's more realistic than a character who just suddenly knows how to shoot a gun with 100% accuracy."
When I read this, the first character I thought of was Gordon Freeman. How in the hell does a physicist get that good with guns the instant all hell breaks loose? lol
Great blog! I love the topic!
I think the "deep" bad-ass is mostly a result of developers being able to convincingly pull it off these days. Or at least, they know how to portary emotion graphically. Without resorting to text, it was hard for old games to really obtain the emotional punch of movies. Certainly there were great story based games back then (System Shock 2, Planescape: Torment, Chrono Trigger), but most games were exclusively about the gameplay and so the main characters weren't as developed (Gordon Freeman, Duke, Mario, Sonic, Link... Crono).
Since technology has progressed, they are able to make characters do more subtle things, like wince, roll thier eyes, brush strands of hair out their eyes. They have capacity to convey subtle responses, so developers take advantage of this.
But I don't think the "classic" bad-ass is going anywhere. Developers still make games where story isn't as important, games simply about the thrill of the adventure. It is in these games you still see the "classic" bad-ass.
I think in most cases today the whole dynamic of storytelling and characters changed just for the inclusion of achievements and role playing game elements like progression, thats all.
They now NEED Lara to be weak first and loose everything so the player can get it back playing and becomes stronger.
Far cry 3 is the same, normal rich boy that cries by just looking at a dead guy and conveniently looses his friends, gets captured and has to PROGRESS to become the bad ass.
God of War, no matter how god-like Kratos is when he finishes up the previous game he always gets beated somehow and reduced to nothing so YOU can turn him into the Kratos fans know and want him to be.
And its no coincidence that in most JRPGs the main character is always a shy akward kid that has so much courage that ends up overcoming every problem in his way, and grows up.
I like flawed characters a lot better than generic bad asses.
Master Chief bores me to death with his generic Doom trooper look and lack of charisma.
Nathan Drake has a better personality for sure.
My heroes include amongst many others:
Guybrush Threepwood, Roger Wilco, Bobbin Threadbare, Leisure suit Larry and Nicole Neil
Nicole is a magic user in Guardian Heroes. Guardian Heroes is a side scrolling beat'em up with a story and Nicole is somewhat unique in this genre because she occasionally trips for no reason and falls to the ground.
Games in general need more humour but a lead character with any type of personality flaws can make a game better.
I also have a weak spot for alcoholics like Tony Stark and Captain Haddock.
Maybe bad-asses are just becoming deeper characters. They can't just go around punching people anymore, they have to have a reason to do it! A deeper reason then they are badguys, and they gotta die. Of course, there will (probably) always be room for 1D characters who just want to smash things.
Geralt of Rivia does it all right! Well, could do with some more emotional depth but that's all relevant to the story I suppose! Ahhhh, the Witcher.. but yeah, character depth is definitely becoming a bigger necessity, and I like it.
As gamers we like to engage in hubris, similar to the way that many videogame protagonists behave like bad asses. I revel in the illogic and frenzied nature of my characters. I can disassociate with reality in order to assert my character in a position of power even though their skill and competence far surpasses my own personal capabilities. Hubris is generally considered bad within a social context, but in videogames it's virtually required. Whether it's guitar hero, a racing sim, or an average shooter--isn't that the point in most games--to be a badass.
I understand what you're saying, game heroes are not what they were 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. But I agree with @Petethepuppy that it "varies from person to person". When I am looking to get my fill of "badassery" I turn to games like GTA, Metal Gear Solid, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
I think the reviewer praising DmC story should be fired. The story in that game is a goddamn mess. The older Dante had more personality than the new one ever will. That's thanks to the developer westernizing it.
Personally I feel this varies from person to person, and also can depend on what you're in the mood for. For me if I have a good couple of hours to spend on gaming then I prefer something with some depth. On the other hand if I only have a short amount of time some mindless action is the way to go. This is the same with films, Jason Statham films are brilliant for hangover days.
The whole point in my opinion with games is to be able to play someone you could never, or will never be in real life. With that in mind the bad ass will always be a part of games.
Great blog! I agree. My personal awards for these newer and less shallower bad asses shall go to Adam Jensen and Wei Shen :))
@Mojira7 Completely forgot about Wei Shen. I personally feel he was one of the best protagonists last year. Sleeping Dogs was so underrated.. hope there's a sequel that's expanded upon.
Great blog. As for me, I sometimes get tired of it. For example, when people say they hated Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, but loved him in MGS4. So you just like a character who is a cold killer and has thrown his life away, but don't like him when he didn't want to kill people? People like that seen to have their priorities messed up. That being said, I also don't see the 'bad ass' leaving anytime soon.
I like a mixture of both - sometimes I want to feel like I'm an unstoppable baddass, spouting one-liners & taking down the enemies in waves. Other times, I want to play as a character grounded in reality or as an unlikely protagonist. I think there is room for both as well as audiences who want both (and more) from their videogame escapism.
I was kind of thinking about this yesterday after reading complaints about how unlikeable Kratos has become. Personally I got a massive thrill in God Of War 3 from being this absolute monster hepped up on rage-amahol. However I can see the need for diversity and I think the criticisms about Lara Croft turning from regular girl to mass murderer in the space of a few hours are very valid. Far Cry 3 felt a little unbelievable too although I had a blast through it.
I suppose the game mechanics we are all used to require a lot of violence that ring hollow when you are trying to tell a story of a vulnerable character. Maybe it's these mechanics that need to change in a future title about a more real character.
@-INKling- Anybody that thinks Kratos has "become" unlikeable is a giant leaking d-bag. If they liked Kratos initially then they're spewing some bs about not liking him in GoW 3, they deserve to be bitchslapped by Kratos himself. I just had to get that out there, too many people whining about him recently.
In this over feminized society, the timeless "badass" always gets the girl, always is the role model for kids...there's just something hero like about a man who is fearless in fighting all odds to save his loved ones, or just looking out for the common man. Even games like the new tomb raider, it's not exclusive to men, Lara is a total badass in that game. Look at blockbuster movies that top the charts, what always tops them? Super hero movies, people love a badass. Not all mind you, there is a certain type of person that is more sensitive, which personally I equate to pretentiousness....but for the most part, people want a role model, a hero, he's gotta be strong, and he's gotta be fast, and he's gotta be fresh from the fight...someone to give them hope that anything can be achieved against all odds....that's just my 2 cents though, the "badass" ain't going anywhere.
Eh. Violence. This is somewhat off topic, but I'm kind of tired of the emphasis on action and brutality in some of these games. I mean, take a look at God of War; I'm personally done with the shock and awe of brutal kills, where Kratos will cut the head open of something and let its brains ooz out. I think we need to move past the "Oh, you have to see this (insert brutal moment)" mentality that I think some of the game developers think we all need. I'm not saying it can't be done well, but most of the time there's too much of an emphasis on it it kind of ruins my experience a little, like the latest Dead Space 3, and its Awakened. As for bad asses, I think it can be pulled off; I really like the guys in Gears of War; I mean, just their jogging movements as the music swells and action heats up seem bad ass to me, it doesn't even have to be personality, which seems kind of... Ironic? I guess 'cool' is a better word. It really depends. Characters need personality.
I think especially in this day and age where video games are under attack for a bad influence that it's important to have real characters with real struggles instead of the total bad ass. Not only is it much more culturally relevant like you said, but it doesn't give anything bad for kids to look up to. Instead of seeing Duke Nukem rip an alien's head off and then continue to get a stripper, they see Lara and a story of how she triumphed over the circumstances she was thrown in. Kids will see how hard it really is to be a bad ass and then they'll be much less inclined to act like that bad ass if they see that it has its own set of problems. Of course this is all just speculation, but I feel like I'm not too far off base with this.
@Banjo2E "KIDS" should not be playing a "MATURE" game in the first place. Just like the way they shouldn't be watching a similarly rated movie :)
I think it very much boils down to personal preference. A good well written story containing a great and well created character, that shows relateable actions and approach to his surroundings, that's something all of us love. At the same time, i do fear that this is ALL we want. I respect a guy like David Cage, but when gameplay becomes nothing but a few buttons only to drag time out, it's not really a game to me anymore. I respect him and his work, and adore Heavy Rain for it's looks and atmosphere, but the game of itself, is not something i would want to play through again and again and again. That said, i'm always happy to see characters evolve too, and this is why the new Tomb Raider is awesome! The great thing is, that almost every gamer know Lara Croft, and knows her for that badass tomb raiding big boobed babe, and even though she lacked a lot of personality once, you still had a good idea what she was about, and who she was. Now, so many years after the initial release of Tomb Raider, you finally get her origin, and it's very cool, and it was done so well!
It is still possible for characters in contemporary games to be deeply-nuanced and remain badass (see Max Payne 3), but I think there is a growing dissonance that occurs as "traditional" characters (and an understanding of the motives that drive them) run afoul of an ever-younger gaming demographic - just as "the gap" decreases understanding between disparate generations within society.